‘We think we can unlock him here’ – Weaver on bringing Wiseman to the Pistons

Troy Weaver doesn’t have a clear vision of how James Wiseman fits in a frontcourt that now numbers four young big men, but he’s seen enough of the Pistons being overmatched inside to be willing to let it play out.

“You really don’t know until you pull back the onion, pull back the layers, how it’s going to work, how it’s going to fit,” he said Friday after the deadline deal that added the 7-foot-1 Wiseman to Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart and Marvin Bagley III. “But you have to be willing to give it a try and come up with schemes and solutions to maximize those guys.”

It was coincidence that the Pistons played Cleveland the night before Thursday’s trade deadline and saw 7-footers Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen power the Cavaliers to a runaway win in which the Pistons scored a season-low 85 points. But it resonated with Weaver that against the top four teams in the East – Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Cleveland, all with considerable size advantages – the Pistons are 0-12.

“If you don’t have size to play against those guys, you don’t have a chance – point blank, period,” Weaver said. “And we need some men and some size. We haven’t beaten those teams yet and if you look at these games, we’ve usually struggled on the glass.”

It will be on Dwane Casey and his staff to tweak their offensive blueprint on the fly and come up with the schemes and solutions Weaver imagines to unlock a roster now loaded with high-ceiling young big men. There won’t be a radical overhaul necessary, Casey said.

“There’s a lot of different things we can do within what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s going to be trial and error with some guys in new positions. I don’t think we can throw everything out to bring one guy in. We have to find places within what we’re doing and that can be done.”

Stewart, 6-foot-8, is undersized at center but his frame, strength and length – a 7-foot-4 wingspan – will give him clear advantages at power forward, where he’s spent most of his time with Duren’s emergence, so long as he continues to develop his 3-point shot and perimeter skills. To maximize the four-man cohort, the Pistons would be best served if someone from among the Duren-Bagley-Wiseman group also displays functional perimeter ability at both ends.

And Wiseman might be the one to do it. Dwane Casey talked to Warriors coach Steve Kerr after the trade went down and heard only good things about Wiseman’s coachability and talent. Is Wiseman a candidate to step outside and play at the 3-point line?

“We’ll see,” Casey said. “Everyone says he can. Steve said he made threes in practice. He’ll have the opportunity. We’re going to be creative. We’re not going to put him in a box.”

Wiseman spent most of his day Friday undergoing his physical examination to complete the trade that sent Saddiq Bey and Kevin Knox to Golden State, Bey getting spun off to Atlanta and Knox to Portland to accommodate the Warriors bringing back Gary Payton II, an important part of their 2022 NBA title run. Casey said he hopes Wiseman is available to play Sunday afternoon at Toronto and the Pistons will waste no time throwing him into the mix.

“With your talent, if you don’t use it, you lose it,” Weaver said, noting Wiseman’s college career at Memphis was limited to three games by NCAA suspension and his NBA career has involved just 60 games in three seasons due to injury and limited opportunity with a franchise that had title designs and no luxury of patience. “We need him to get out there so he can get back to using his talent and be confident in who he is as a player.”

Weaver drew parallels to Jermaine O’Neal, drafted straight out of high school by Portland and didn’t average more than 13 minutes a game over his four seasons there but became a six-time All-Star after being traded to Indiana. Wiseman, 21, was the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft, possesses a 7-foot-6 wingspan, springy athleticism and a soft shooting touch. He often looked tentative in his infrequent appearances with the Warriors, but the Pistons are banking on his latent ability being resuscitated by opportunity in a less pressurized environment.

“When he became available, that kind of changed things for me,” Weaver said. “Just being able to add this kind of talent with this kind of size. We think we can unlock him here. It’s like I told him: We try to create an environment where players can come here and be the best version of themselves. … We want James to come here and exhale, unpack his bags and go to work.”

Wiseman gave Weaver the impression he’s dying to do exactly that.

“He was excited,” during their initial phone conversation once the trade went down. “He saw the young core here and he sees the group he can be a part of, on and off the floor. It’s natural excitement when you think you’ve got a chance to get on the floor and help a group and he’s excited about his opportunity.”